DLCs, or downloadable content, is one of the most controversial ideas in modern gaming. On paper it seems like a really great idea: in addition to the full game, the developers can release new added content to extend the play time of the game, so players can get more out of the experience. It seems like a win-win situation. In practice, what it usually means is that after you spend your hard-earned money on the core game, they try to charge you for worthless add-ons, overpriced extras, or even for something that should have been part of the game to begin with. DLC has become a bad word in today’s gaming industry, but in spite of consumer backlash it seems like game developers are still trying to test the limits of how much they can charge for downloadable content.
Expansion packs for games usually contain more objects, outfits, quests, locations, characters, dialogue, and sometimes even extra endings. Of course, this opens the door for blatant cash-ins by developers, who see DLCs as an opportunity to charge players for needless or insulting content, or for what feels like missing pieces of the game. Imagine the uproar if someone charged fans an extra fee for the last 10 minutes of a movie or the last two chapters of a book, and you’ll see why gamers react to DLCs as cynical and greedy.
Here are 20 of the worst video game DLCs of all time. We’re only included paid content on this list, so no free downloadable content.
20. The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion (Horse Armor)
We all knew this one was going to be on here. The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion may have revolutionized gaming in more ways than one, but it’s also notorious for having one of the first insulting and unnecessary DLCs. Oblivion‘s Horse Armor DLC is a famous example of ludicrous downloadable content, charging players $2.50 for nothing more than the chance to see your horse wear its own set of shining armor.
Besides changing absolutely nothing about the game’s mechanics, there was also the fact that no one cared or even noticed that their horses were naked going into battle. While the inclusion of an aesthetic bonus itself is justifiable, charging players extra money for a useless feature is not. Horse Armor was one of the first downloadable content packs to receive criticism, but the DLCs of today make it look tame in comparison.
19. Battlefield 4: Ultimate Shortcut Bundle
No less than five DLC packs were announced for Battlefield 4 before the game was even released, which speaks volumes about the role that downloadable content plays in gaming these days. Consumers complained that the game was essentially released in pieces behind a paywall. But what was even worse was the $50 Ultimate Shortcut Bundle for multiplayer. So, what does it do?
In essence, it lets players straight-up pay extra money to unlock all the top-tier weapons you’re supposed to earn in the game. So instead of a logical progression of rewards earned for hard work, you have preteens using their parent’s credit cards to gain access to high-level weaponry right off the bat. Not only does it bring the rise of these “wallet warriors,” but it throws off the balance of the entire multiplayer, letting legit players get steamrolled by those with more money.
18. Tiger Woods PGA Tour 13
As you can probably guess from the title, Tiger Woods PGA Tour 13 is a leading title in the electronic golf market. The sports title’s big claim to fame is that it features real-life golf courses. Unfortunately, even if you buy the full game 20 of the 36 courses are locked, and to rent one round on the restricted courses you need about 6,000 coins (the equivalent of 10 rounds of 18 holes), and dumping playtime into course rental is pretty unforgiving.
Of course, the game constantly reminds you during every 30-second loading screen that you can just pay $5 to unlock it now with DLCs. So you get to choose between grinding dozens of hours for one round of golf, or spending a little extra cash. To add insult to injury, the courses were already on the game disc, making it even more of a blatant cash-grab.
17. The Saboteur: The Midnight Show
The Saboteur is a game with a harrowing plot involving fighting the German occupation of France during World War II by killing Nazis as an Irish race-car driver. But its legacy is tainted by poor AI, random glitches, and what is probably the most embarrassing DLC in world history: The Midnight Show. The add-on’s purpose is quite simple: it shows the dancers of the Belle de Nuit burlesque house in Paris topless.
That’s right: there was a DLC that did nothing but get rid of tops and pasties. Although it also added some basic gambling games, brothels, and hiding spots, it’s obvious the main attraction is adding nudity to the game. Though it was free at first, players buying used copies had to pay $4.99. EA eventually pulled the plug on the servers for the expansion. They kept the money, of course.
16. Sonic Lost World: 25 Lives Pack
Offered as an Amazon pre-order bonus for Sonic Lost World for the 3DS and Wii U, the extra 25 lives was a DLC for those who bought the Deadly Six Bonus Edition of the game. While it may seem strange to gives lives as a bonus as though it was an arcade game where you insert quarters to continue rather than a $50 console game, fans were outraged by what they saw as damaging the integrity of the core design of the Sonic the Hedgehog series.
Even worse, many suspected that Sega would later charge for the DLC, essentially trading money for extra lives and setting a dangerous precedent of paying for what should be a core part of the platforming game. The decision received such bad press from gaming journalists Sega made a statement saying that the Sonic franchise would never charge for extra lives.
15. Destiny: The Taken King
Many expansions sell you stuff that’s unnecessary, or unlock things that you already bought. But the Destiny DLC The Taken King is perhaps the first one to actually remove content people were still playing. The Taken King is one of the most acclaimed DLCs of all time, praised for improving the story and mechanics. But while it brought new content to those that bought it, it actually removed some previously accessible to those who didn’t.
The DLC changes the mission structure, locking out those without the expansion from Nightfall missions, Daily and Weekly Heroic Strikes, restricting gamers without the DLC to level 20 Vanguard Legacy playlists, and also limiting bounties and Crucible match types. While changes are to be expected in an online game like Destiny, it’s annoying to wake up one day and realize that missions, playlists and bounties previously available have vanished overnight.
14. Final Fantasy: All The Bravest
This free-to-play game for iOS and Android features characters, monsters, locations, and music from the popular Final Fantasy series. It may seem like a fun way to spend your time, but beneath the surface All The Bravest is a perfect example of the dark side of modern DLCs. To play the game you have to wait hours to revive your team, or you can take the dark path of microtransactions and pay Square Enix to bring them back immediately.
To make things even worse, classic characters like Cloud Strife are locked behind a random lottery where you pay $1 to unlock one of the 35 unlockable possibilities. So basically if you’re not very lucky and try to play as the Final Fantasy VII star you could end up dropping $35. Not to mention the airship tickets to other worlds, which are $3.99 apiece.
13. Dragon Age: Origins
If developers of a video game want to include DLC content, one of the worst things they can do is put in NPCs as walking billboards advertising it. That’s the greatest sin of Dragon Age: Origins’ extra story missions. BioWare’s RPGs have been known to add on additional story content in DLC form, which is fine as long as it’s up the player to decide if they want to purchase it. But it gets obnoxious when you walk around Redcliffe Village talking to characters with highlighted objectives.
Eventually you’ll run into a particular villager who will spill all the details for his respective quest, but the conversation ends with him asking you to unlock the quest by purchasing DLC content with real money. It’s one thing when downloadable content is optional; it’s another to break immersion to ask a player for spare change.
12. Madden 2010: Elite Status
To say EA has gone overboard with bad DLC would be an understatement, and the popular Madden series is no exception. If fans of the football video game franchise thought they were immune from the creeping terror of downloadable content, the Elite Status DLC for Madden 2010 proved them wrong. A truly terrible rip-off, Elite Status can be purchased through the multiplayer lobby and just unlocks a new difficulty level. That’s it.
The Elite Status rested on the flimsy excuse of giving you access to “exclusive VIP lobbies” and “new leaderboards” and other game modifiers, but ultimately it was still charging $5 for a new difficulty level. A “hardcore mode” for online play was all it was, except you had to pay extra money for it. Elite Status marked a new low in the world of DLCs by openly monetizing Madden players’ competitive streak.
11. Street Fighter III: Third Strike Color Pack
While EA is a notorious offender when it comes to terrible DLC content, they’re far from the only one–after all, Capcom’s color packs for the online edition of Street Fighter III: 3rd Strike are in a class all their own. DLC can take many forms, including alternate costumes for iconic characters. If that’s what the color packs involved, maybe it wouldn’t be a huge deal. But all it turned out to be was additional colors for their existing costumes.
Yes, for a few dollars the Color Packs did nothing but tweak the sprites a little bit to change the color of your fighter’s outfit, and to make it even worse your online opponents wouldn’t be able to see the alternate colors unless they themselves own the Color Packs DLC.
10. Beautiful Katamari: Extra Levels
The fourth game in the delightful Katamari series, Beautiful Katamari, made history by being an early example of a particular kind of DLC mortal sin: selling players an incomplete game and hiding content behind a paywall. The DLCs add extra levels to the game, some of which are required to complete the 1,500,000 km Katamari needed to finish the game. The DLC stages were only a few kilobytes in size, which means they could have just been included on the game disc.
In order to truly finish Beautiful Katamari, all DLC stages need to be purchased, downloaded and completed. Not buying the DLC makes it impossible to unlock all items, and the game can’t be completed without them. There’s even an achievement for the game that requires players to “purchase a DLC stage, and roll a 1,500,000 Katamari.”
9. WWE 2K’s Accelerator
In a similar vein to what became of the Battlefield series, WWE’s sports entertainment pro wrestling video game series are cashing in on the DLC craze, except more shamelessly. Not only do WWE games have season passes and hundreds of unlockable content packs, but it has dozens of playable wrestling superstars. Normally you obtain these by completing the game’s single-player mode, but recent WWE entries include a paid DLC bonus called the Accelerator.
Basically, you pay $2 to unlock everything instantly, including content it would take hours and hours of play to unlock. While arguably a low price, it feels more like a sneaky way of taxing players with limited time on their hands than any consumer-friendly impulse, especially when such codes to unlock content were free in previous WWE games.
8. Mortal Kombat X: Easy Fatalities
Mortal Kombat X was one of the most popular games of 2015, but the newest installment of the beloved fighting game franchise was also divisive. It had its fair share of glitches and bugs, its multiplayer was region-locked, and there was a DLC for “easy fatalities.” The bloody, over-the-top executions moved called “Fatalities” are perhaps the most iconic part of the Mortal Kombat series, but now they’ve become the series’ first instance of microtransactions.
“Easy fatalities” are available in packs of five for $0.99, or 30 for $4.99, and give players shortcuts for the hyper-violent moves, which in previous games were difficult to perform (by design). While easier fatalities was reportedly requested from NetherRealm by the players themselves, it’s doubtful that they had microtransactions in mind.
7. Sonic Adventure’s DX Upgrade
Sonic Adventure was met with positive reviews during its first release in 1999, but the re-release of Sonic Adventure DX: Director’s Cut in 2003, an enhanced port for the PC and GameCube, was less well-received. Finally, when Sega re-re-released it by porting it to the PS3 and 360 in 2010 as Sonic Adventure DX Upgrade, gamers had had enough, particularly with its DLC content.
You see, to unlock the complete version of this HD remake of Sonic Adventure, you have to reach for your wallet. That’s right: it will cost you an extra few dollars to unlock all the missions and modes that were in the original GameCube edition. To rub more salt in the wound, even the DX Upgrade didn’t include Game Gear games or the Dreamcast DLC.
6. Transformers: War For Cybertron
American adults who grew up in the 1980s and 1990s have an endless love for the Transformers franchise, and many were delighted by the release of 2010’s Transformers: War for Cybertron. More of a throwback to the original cartoons than Michael Bay’s films, the game allowed players to re-skin the robots to look exactly like their 1980s counterparts.
That is, if you bought your copy of the game from specific retailers. That’s right: to unlock the classic designs of Shockwave and others, you had to buy from different outlets. Codes for the DLC fetched hundreds of dollars on Ebay until Activision smelled opportunity and released the skins in a batch of $5 DLC packs without warning, essentially flying in the face of fans who dropped a small fortune for them just days before.
5. Mass Effect 3: From Ashes
Mass Effect 3‘s first DLC was released alongside its official launch, and like many of BioWare’s decisions regarding the end of their epic scifi trilogy (like the ending), it caused outrage among fans. The company’s decision meant that any gamers who didn’t pre-order the third Mass Effect game would have to drop an extra $10 to buy the From Ashes DLC and gain access to its content.
The DLC unlocked a central character from the Prothean race named Javik who joins your party, and also had characters, lore, and missions absolutely critical to the plot of the game. Essentially From Ashes is just another example of game companies cutting out important parts of the story and lore and then re-selling it as a DLC.
4. Metro: Last Light (Ranger Mode)
If paying to make the game easier seems pointless, the concept of difficulty being withheld for an access fee is a truly bizarre one for the world of gaming. But that’s what we got in Madden 2010‘s “Elite Status,” and that’s what we see again with Metro: Last Light‘s “Ranger Mode.” The first-person shooter had the Ranger difficulty levels included in the game as a pre-order exclusive, but it was eventually made available to all players…for the price of $4.99 of course.
Ranger Mode was advertised on the front page of the official Metro: Last Light page as “the way the game was meant to be played,” which raised questions as to why it wasn’t available for free to all players as the definitive Metro experience.
3. Railworks: Train Simulator 2012
Railworks is a fine train simulator – and probably the only train simulator, which by definition makes it the best rail simulator of all time. But nothing can justify the fact that buying the complete DLC for Railworks: Train Simulator 2012 would end up costing you over $2,000. That’s not a typo: two thousand US dollars. How in the world did it get to be so much?
Well you see, with each new update of the simulation, the amount of DLC content available, mostly consisting of different locomotives and famous railway routes, grew along with the game. Due to the enormous backlog, it has hundreds of DLCs for different updates. While the developers have made it clear they don’t expect anyone to buy all the content, that doesn’t make it any less ridiculous. As of last update, the total cost was heading towards $3,000.
2. Asura’s Wrath (True Ending)
Asura’s Wrath and its anime-influenced art style and episodic revenge story is a game that’s loved by fans. It’s not the sort of game you would think would boast what is hands-down one of the worst and most disgusting DLCs of all time. The True Ending DLC costs $7 and contains the actual ending to the game.
Yes, you heard right: to get the final battle with your nemesis and the true finale for Asura’s Wrath, you have to purchase another episode pack in addition to the cost of the game. The story campaign’s hard-to-obtain secret ending is nothing more than a set-up for the DLC ending. Remember earlier when we said DLCs were like charging people to see the last 10 minutes of a movie or read the end of a book? Never has that metaphor been so fitting.
1. Everything Released For The Sims
More than any other game series, Maxis’ surprise smash hit The Sims bears the blame for the current trend of DLCs and what they’ve become. Think about it: The Sims started it with their endless themed expansion packs. It started off exciting enough with Livin‘ Large, then House Party, Hot Date and Vacation, all of which added new and exciting content. But then they just kept coming, until it was obvious Maxis saw dollar signs on the horizon.
This continued in endless DLCs for The Sims 2, which has no less than eight different expansions and ten (!) stuff packs. The Sims 3 followed suit with eleven expansions and nine stuff packs, and finally with The Sims 4 they actually stripped away the base game so they could sell content as DLCs, until finally The Sims resembled a DLC catalogue more than a functioning game series.
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